Seven years since the deadly shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Brian Rohrbough, father of victim Danny Rohrbough, believes the right amount of time has passed to start work on a permanent memorial.
“The amount of time isn’t important; what’s important is that it is happening,” Rohrbough said after a groundbreaking ceremony at the school on Friday.
Dark skies, lit by occasional lightning, dripped rain on an audience of several thousand people who joined Rohrbaugh and other victim’s family members to listen to keynote speaker and former President Bill Clinton remember the shootings.
Clinton, who was president at the time of the April 20, 1999 shootings, remembered the pain he felt that day.
“It was one of the darkest days for Hillary and me in the White House,” Clinton said.
The Columbine shootings – in which 12 students and one teacher were killed – affected not only the local community, but also millions of Americans, Clinton said.
“Every parent felt helpless, even the president,” the former president said. “I have some feeling for how awful it was to all of you who lost your loved ones, whose loved ones were wounded, who just lived in fear.”
Preceding Clinton on stage was Dawn Anna Beck, mother of victim Lauren Townsend. Beck, representing the family members, believes the memorial will give both the general public and the families the opportunity to remember and get to know the lost loved ones.
“This memorial will give us a chance to know better the 13 victims of the tragedy,” Beck said.
Beck referenced the thunder, which was constantly booming throughout her speech, by saying, “See, God remembers.” Beck also talked about how the shootings have brought complete strangers together.
“Evil, such as a vicious act, generated all this love,” Beck said. “In that darkness, we can truly see the light and the hope.”
Bob Easton, chairman of the Columbine Memorial Committee, said the groundbreaking was partially an act of faith because the memorial was about $350,000 short of its fundraising goal. Clinton, who promised to match a $50,000 donation by a local golf course, spoke about raising the additional money.
“If everyone gave a little, just ten or twenty dollars, we can get there,” Clinton said after the ceremony.
Clinton, who has helped raise money for various causes in his six years since his presidency, believes that the money can and will be donated.
“After Katrina and the tsunami, Americans gave so much, and I know they will again,” Clinton told a handful of reporters.
The reason for the seven-year delay in the memorial groundbreaking was because the victims’ families agreed that ridding Columbine High School of its old library was the most important task. The old library, where the majority of the victims were killed and wounded, gave way for a new library in 2001.
Rohrbough believed then that a permanent, official memorial may never come, but agreed with the decision to raze the library first.
“When we decided to take on the library, we knew this day may never come,” Rohrbough said.
After the speeches, bagpipers played “Amazing Grace” as family members shoveled dirt to mark the site. During the groundbreaking, the rain stopped and the sun came out for a few minutes. It seemed fitting that even on the somber and rainy day, the sun came out in the end.
To make a donation, visit www.columbinememorial.org
Dave Sanders – Teacher